Certainly, many of us know about Zeus and the major gods. There is Aphrodite, the goddess of love; Ares, the god of war; Poseidon, god of the sea and there are many more major gods. Yet there are minor gods too, such as the Dactyls, who were the divine embodiment of the five fingers. There was Herakles, the thumb, Aeonius the forefinger, Epimedes the middle finger, Jasius the ring finger and Idas the little finger. So this is helpful, next time you get cut off at an intersection by some driver running a light, don’t worry about your immediate reaction. You can always say that you weren’t flipping the bird, but were just praying to Epimedes!
I’ve been thinking about these many gods lately. Over the course of this summer, I’ve had the opportunity to explore my relationship with our one true God. And it occurred to me that where we once may have worshipped many gods, we now worship a single God with many faces. I think we can see that most clearly in the Old Testament where we read about an angry God in one chapter and a kind God in another; a nurturing God, yet also a vengeful God.
But I think we can read of the many faces of God in the New Testament as well. There are four gospels. In each of them, we are presented with a differing point of view of who Jesus is. In Mark he is portrayed as being the most human while in John he is spoken of in a tone of almost mystical glee, celebrating his wonders and miracles at every turn. These are four distinct points of view and it leaves the reader with such a wonderful opportunity to understand and define for themselves who Jesus is.
But there is more to this. I’m not talking only about what we read, but also what we experience. The gospels sometimes seem to tell us of the historical Jesus, but we need to acknowledge that the living God who surrounds now shows us many faces even to this day. And this summer, I encountered at least two of them.
I first witnessed a quiet God, the God who walks with us and provides us with constancy as we pray and calms our fears when we worry. This is the God of always. Always present, always there, always besides us. I met this quiet God while in Maine on our mission trip to Kittery. As part of our trip we were each separated into teams and tasked with helping a homeowner in need of house repair. In the mornings we’d work on painting lattice or fixing a porch and we would then break for lunch. We ate in a screened in porch overlooking a garden teeming with wild flowers and primroses.
The homeowner would sit away from the table where we were sitting and listened as we talked over lunch and listen some more when we would start our afternoon devotionals where we would discuss our relationship with Jesus. On our first day of devotionals, our resident did not say much if anything at all.
On the second day we talked about a hypothetical: Would we run toward 5 million dollars or away from 5 years of sorrow? There was some discussion about this with the teens in our group, whether the 5 years of sorrow would be worth it if they could get the 5 million dollars at the end of it. And then our homeowner quietly said: “As a mother, I could never choose sorrow”. After that she did open up slowly but surely over the course of the rest of the week. She began to share her life, her history, what brought her to Maine, etc. And she revealed herself, little by little, layer by layer until finally she sat with us and prayed with us and asked us to pray for her, her children, her family.
And this is where I realized that I was witnessing a quiet God, for how this woman began to show her true self, so too is God revealed to us. We do not always experience the great miracles, but over the course of a lifetime, if we listen hard enough and watch closely enough we will witness the quiet assurance of a God loving us, being revealed to us, little by little and layer by layer.
At the end of our work day, we’d head back to the high school where we were staying. Some of us would take a shower while others might nap or play Frisbee on the school grounds. It was a nice time to relax before dinner and after dinner we’d head to worship. This was where I was able to witness a loud God, a very active God whose spirit would infect the audience with such glee, such adulation.
Now, imagine an auditorium filled with teenagers, over 500 I think and add to that the adult chaperones and the employees of the group coordinating the trip all coming together in this room to worship God. The worship would begin with a song, but not just any song, one that would draw out the kids from the seats and they would dance with joy on their faces and it was beautiful to see. Also during the service folks would be invited to share their God sightings, certain points in the day where they felt the presence of God. But most of what I took away from this was the music. I saw the arms raised in the air acknowledging inspiration, the voices singing as one, the music turned up loudly, I witnessed a congregation feeling the Spirit of God in a massive room, together basking in the love of Jesus.
This was the loud God, though the music did play, it was the spirit of God who amplified it. Though we gathered together, it was the Spirit of God who proved that we were one body. Though we sang, it was the voice of God uniting us. This was not a quiet room. We were not witnessing a quiet God. And I drew so much inspiration from those nights for I was able to witness the spirit of love wash over a group of people gathered to assist those in need and I saw the very essence of that love in the raised hands and on joyful faces of so many people from so many places. It was wonderful and it was loud.
This morning’s gospel reading reminded me of our mission trip. Think of the very passage we listened to this morning. We listened to Jesus boldly proclaiming to his disciples that he was indeed the Messiah but then admonishing them not to tell anyone. In our reading this morning we hear from the loud Jesus and the quiet Jesus. And what seems like a contradiction is not for a God who is all things is in fact everything. Quiet, loud, everything.
So when Jesus asks, “Who do they say, I am”, I guess my only response would be everything. He is God, He is human. He is the Alpha and He is the Omega. He gives us life and He takes away the pain of death. He amplifies our voices and blesses our silence.
And who do I say he is? He is the perfection of love, the ideal we wish to attain. And when we worship Him, we worship the loud, the quiet, the everything, the many faces of our one true God who is revealed to us layer by layer and bit by bit. Amen.